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Sustainability Fellows to tackle bikes, recycling

May 2, 2008

Sustainability Fellows to tackle bikes, recycling

Juniors Lauren Buchholz and Eric Pfaff were named the 2008-09 Sustainability Fellows last week.

Awarded annually by the Sustainability Committee, the fellowships give students an opportunity to further the campus sustainability effort by researching existing practices and the use of resources on PLU and at other college and university campuses.

Buchholz will work with Environmental Services to determine strategies to perpetuate the 2006 “Can the Can”Office of Residential Life and Outdoor Rec to initiate the formation of a bike co-op on campus.

campaign and raise awareness about PLU’s surplus sales. Meanwhile, Pfaff will work with the

Since the inception of “Can the Can” in October 2006, nearly half of PLU’s faculty and staff have opted to participate, giving up their personal trash cans in favor of recycling more. However, no data has been collected about the effectiveness of the campaign.

Buchholz will survey faculty and staff about the 2006 campaign to determine what strategies worked and what barriers still exist. Using the survey results, she’ll develop a marketing strategy to inform employees about the campaign and further recycling efforts.

Additionally, Buchholz will examine the Environmental Services surplus program and develop an advertising campaign to increase awareness. The surplus program collects unused items from around campus, such as desks, chairs and couches, and sells them at regular garage sales.

“Surplus is not advertised enough to people off campus,” Buchholz said.

When students move off campus, many have little to no furniture for their new digs. Buchholz and her roommates stumbled upon the program last year and were able to furnish most of their house with quality items, she said.

“I’m really excited to see what happens afterwards,” she said. “Seeing in February how many more ‘Can the Cans’ are out there, talking about the successes and the next steps.”

Meanwhile, Pfaff will spend his summer and next fall establishing a bike co-op. The program will rent out bicycles to students, faculty and staff, along with providing upkeep for the rented gear. It will launch this fall with approximately 20 bikes.

The cycles for the co-op will come from Harstad Hall’s basement, which is filled with abandoned bikes collected throughout the years, Pfaff said. He’ll spend a good portion of the summer visiting similar programs and developing a business plan for PLU’s program.

“I’ll look at the history of similar programs and develop one that will work for this campus,” he said. He’s already been talking to the director of Willamette University’s bike shop, a similar program that provides cycles free to the Salem, Ore., campus community.

The other part of Pfaff’s project is to refurbish the abandoned bikes in Harstad Hall, recruit and train volunteers in the fall and incorporate the co-op into the broader OR program.

Pfaff plans on having half of the cycles available for rental, with the other half reserved for OR trips. By making bikes available and providing a map of bike-able roads and trails in the area, Pfaff hopes to increase the number of students, faculty and staff who regularly ride bikes.

“It’s a more sustainable way of traveling,” Pfaff said. Plus, there are the added benefits of getting some exercise and saving money on gas, he added.

An English writing and environmental studies double major, Pfaff was moved to get involved in PLU’s sustainability efforts after taking a course on conservation and natural resources. In the course, students completed a lifestyle project, tracking their use of resources, such as electricity, food, water, transportation and garbage production.

“I knew I was failing,” Pfaff said. “But it motivated me to do something and change my lifestyle.”

This year, he served as the Residence Hall Association’s environment, justice and diversity (EJD) director, creating programming to increase awareness about issues related to the environment, justice and diversity. He’s also a member of the Sustainability Committee.

Both Pfaff and Buchholz will work closely with staff and faculty advisors to complete their research. Pfaff is collaborating with Jeff Krengel, director of residential programs, and Brian Naasz, clinical assistant professor of chemistry, while Buchholz is working with environmental services director Barbara McConathy and associate business professor Susan Harmon.

Learn more about the Sustainability Committee and the fellowships at